The short answer is: your energy levels may go up on a vegan diet.
There are tons of anecdotes where switching to a vegan diet made someone more energetic, youthful, and happy.
But there are also anecdotes where someone becomes more lethargic and fatigued after going vegan.
What that tells you is that your energy levels depend on the specific foods you eat.
Consider the 2 diets, both of which are vegan:
- 100% Coke
- A variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and a vitamin B12 supplement
It’s pretty obvious that the second one is better. You’d die at some point on the first “diet”.
And the same can be said for omnivorous diet. You can feel energetic and be healthy if you eat a diet like the second one with a bit of animal products mixed in.
What I can tell you is that if you eat properly, your energy levels will stay the same or go up on a vegan diet.
In terms of energy levels, there’s nothing animal products give you that plants can’t. Meanwhile, there’s a few advantages that plants can have over animal products.
This post will explore the 5 main reasons why switching to a vegan diet may change your energy levels.
Reason #1: Protein Can Be Harder to Get
Animal products are arguably the most convenient source of protein there is.
Take that away, and of course it’s going to be harder to reach your protein goals.
Studies have shown that a diet deficient in protein is linked to higher body fat and less energy.
However, it’s still not difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet once you get used to it.
The main challenge is learning the best ways to eat beans, legumes, and nuts, when you’re probably not used to eating them before.
But you will have to plan your diet if you want to ensure you’re hitting your protein targets.
There are tons of professional vegan athletes who have no problem getting enough protein.
Takeaway: While you can easily get protein on a vegan diet, it can be challenging at first. If you don’t specifically plan for it, you may be deficient and experience a drop in energy levels.
A note on the digestibility of animal protein vs. plant protein
If you eat meat does it feel like it’s heavy? Like a brick in your stomach?
Many people claim that it’s because animal protein is harder to digest than plant protein. Mainly because animal protein usually comes with a lot of fat (specifically saturated) that could stall digestion.
This very well could be true, but I also couldn’t find any research backing it up when looking up the claim.
I wouldn’t rule it out completely, and it may be proven to be true in the future, it’s just not a valid argument to me yet. But I thought it was worth mentioning here anyways.
Reason #2: Most Vitamins and Minerals Are Easier to Get
This is the biggest reason that many people see a significant boost in energy when switching to a vegan diet.
If they didn’t eat many vegetables or legumes before, chances are they were nutritionally deficient in one way or another, leading to low energy levels.
Now, they start eating more vegetables, specifically nutritionally-packed ones like spinach, and return to normal, optimal energy levels.
One way to see this for yourself is to plug your typical diet into Cronometer (free).
It will visually show you if you’re meeting or exceeding your nutrient targets.
Here’s what a planned vegan breakfast alone can do:
Takeaway: You’re much less likely to be deficient in most vitamins and minerals on a vegan diet than a traditional omnivorous diet. If you were deficient before, switching to a vegan diet may result in a big energy boost.
Reason #3: Fiber
Fiber is in almost every plant (here are the top fiber sources), so it’s not surprising that vegans eat a lot of it.
One study showed that the average vegan has 47 grams of fiber a day, while omnivores only consume 23 grams per day. In other words, vegan diets usually have twice as much fiber.
Why is this important?
Fiber has many effects, and one is to regulate the speed of digestion, which impacts your blood sugar.
When you eat carbohydrates in particular, your blood sugar rises as it digests.
The bigger the peak and dip, the less stable your energy levels are.
When fiber is included in the meal, the digestion speed is more consistent, so there isn’t a giant peak right away. Instead, it’s a much more stable release.
This is why fiber is so important for people with diabetes.
Takeaway: Almost all vegan diets have more fiber in them, leading to more stable energy levels throughout the day (instead of crashing a few hours after a meal).
Reason #4: “Junk” Food is Less Available
You can definitely be a junk food vegan who eats nothing but candy and ramen noodles.
But the fact that you’re reading this means that you probably won’t become one.
Overall, most junk food that you’re used to eating won’t be vegan.
So when most people switch to a vegan diet, all of a sudden they eat a lot less junk than they are used to just because they can’t.
Shockingly, eating less junk food makes you feel better and more energetic.
Reason #5: Mental Relief
This reason only applies to people who go vegan for ethical reasons.
Speaking from experience, it’s hard to feel happy and energetic when you feel bad for eating animal products.
When you switch to a full vegan diet, all that emotional stress and anxiety goes away in an instant.
You become much happier, and more energetic as a result.
This won’t apply to everyone, but it will apply to a great deal of people who switch to a vegan diet.
Each individual vegan diet is unique, so it’s impossible to say if your energy levels will go up or down after switching to a vegan diet.
However, if you understand the 5 ways that a vegan diet can affect your energy levels, you can be confident that your energy levels will either stay the same, or go up after the switch.